David J. Weber, Book Review Editor
Diary Of A San Diego Girl-1856. By Victoria Jacobs. Edited by Sylvia Arden. Santa Monica, Ca.: Norton B. Stern Publisher, 1974. Epilogue. Illustrations. Index. Notes. 78 pages. $7.50.
Reviewed by Abraham P. Nasatir, Professor of History, San Diego State University, who needs no introduction to readers of this journal.
Almost one hundred and twenty years ago, a young girl, Victoria Jacobs wrote a day-to-day diary. In it she captured a rare, intimate glimpse of the American period in San Diego. It was a small, compact population that lived in this far southern town in America. They were a mixed group-Mexicans, Spaniards, Europeans and Americans. These different groups worked together in apparent harmony.
Victoria began her diary in mid-June, 1856. She was seventeen. Her diary extended until February, 1857, when she became engaged to Maurice A. Franklin. Victoria’s fiance was twenty-one years her senior. Born in Liverpool, England, in 1817, his background was similar to Victoria’s. Both had been born in England, were of Polish-Jewish origin, and were members of deeply religious families. Franklin came to San Diego in 1853 to join his brother. He established a business in Old Town. He met and married Victoria Jacobs who bore him two sons. She died giving birth to their third child when she was twenty three. Her two young sons were raised by Victoria’s oldest sister, Mrs. Marcus Katz.
Miss Jacobs’ daily log is a treasure of history. It is a delightfully documented account of courtship and society. The reader catches a rare, intimate glimpse of daily life as it was pursued in early San Diego. The details of the writer’s courtship, the scandals of the period, the means of transportation, the importance of the coastal steamers for communication with the outside world, all of this is clearly and interestingly brought out in the diary. It reads quickly and with ease, but its contents will be recalled long after the final page has been closed.
Much praise and credit should be given to Sylvia Arden, Research Librarian at the Serra Museum. It was she who wrote an excellent introduction to the diary and an epilogue. She also annotated the volume with over ninety explanatory footnotes and references. The book was published by Dr. Norton B. Stern. He too merits encomiums for helping to bring to light this illuminating work.
It is this reviewer’s belief that Diary of a San Diego Girl will remain a collectors’ item. It ought to be found in every Jewish home, for it is a reminder of the fact that Jews were not only very definite pioneers in the American West, but they played a prominent and indelible role.